Minor Midget ‘AAA’ Alliance Hockey Playdown Preview

By Matt Pepper

With the regular season now over, the chase for the OHL Cup has now begun. The top 8 Alliance teams have been set and now we begin the grind to see who comes out on top.

We are going to break down each series and highlight things to watch for with each match – up.

(1) Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs (25-0-8) vs (8) Lambton Jr. Sting (12-16-5)

The Chiefs are the first and only team to not lose a game in regulation during an Alliance season and were dominant in most league games played this year. With only 3 games being a 1 goal game, they ended the year with a tremendous goals for – to goals against differential.

Players to Watch:

Owen VanSteensel – League leading scorer and a physical threat up front.
Hunter Haight – Tremendous speed and skill and a huge game breaker.
Brady Stonehouse – Speedster with a quick release and excellent two – way play.
Maddox Amaral – A little under the radar, but has a knack for scoring big goals.

Lambton had an up and down season. They flirted with a big run in November and into December, but hard a tough end of the season going 3 – 6 – 1 in their last 10 games played.

Players to Watch:

Landon Hookey – Power forward with speed and quick hands.
Austin Harper – High end forward with a lot of finish, game breaker.
Markus Hicks – Good offensive defenseman with size and playmaking ability.

With the offensive weapons up front, the physical play their forwards, and the excellent goals for versus goal differential, expect a quick series from the Chiefs. Lambton will need to shut down the deep Elgin- Middlesex offense in order to have a change in this series.

Waterloo Wolves (25-4-4) vs London Jr. Knights (13-15-5)

Waterloo by all accounts would be a first place finisher in any other year in Alliance if not for the Chiefs this season. Excellent scoring forwards to go a long with two of the best puck moving defenseman and elite goaltending make them an instant threat in the post – season.

Players to Watch:

Andy Reist – Big bodied forward with an elite shot. Tough to move off the puck when cycling.
Liam Eveleigh – Best offensive defenseman in this league. Elite level skating.
Evan Klein – Elite level shot and Hockey sense.
Collin Mackenzie – Big game goalie with good athleticism

London had an excellent start to this season, but a rough December saw them fall down in the standings. Still, they possess some elite scoring up front and one of the best goaltenders in the game.

Players to Watch:

Bryce McConnell-Barker – Maybe the most dangerous offensive player in the league. Elite skating and shot.
Dylan Roobroeck – Excellent finish. Great shot with good vision on the ice.
Cole Sheffield – Elite level goalie. Ability to steal games. Tough to beat one – on – one.

Hard to go against Waterloo in this season with all of their weapons, including Eveleigh as well as Cedric Okitundu on the backend. If Evan Klein heats up in this series, it will be a quick one. On the London side of things, Sheffield has the potential to steal games and potentially the series. McConnell – Barker for my money is the best player in the league and can dominate games if he is not shut down. Waterloo would still be my pick to take this series.

Hamilton Huskies (22-7-4) vs Brantford 99ers (14-15-4)

Gavin Bryant hockey

Gavin Bryant of the Brantford 99ers – Photo by CKSN.ca

Much like Waterloo, Hamilton would be a team battling for first place if not for Elgin – Middlesex. One of the fastest teams in Alliance, they have a ton of depth upfront and also have one of the best goaltenders in the game.

Players to Watch

Patrick Thomas – Gap breaking speed. Maybe the fastest player in this league.
Justin Dezoete – Excellent offensive abilities and vision.
Riley George – Big athletic goalie who loves to challenge and quick post – to – post.

Brantford had a steady year, finishing just below .500. They possess some scoring upfront, but tends to score by committee and keep games close.

Players to Watch

Brandon Balazs – Good Hockey sense and offensive abilities.
Gavin Bryant – Good skater with good finish.
Beau Jelsma – Wildcard player who joined team late in season.

Hamilton is big, fast, and physical. They use their speed up front to wear the opposition down and have enough finish to put numbers up on the boards. Patrick Thomas has been excellent in all viewings this year and is a force when his speed is up. Riley George has been solid in net all season and tough to beat. The big question mark for Brantford is the addition of Jelsma. Coming over from Buffalo (and leading that team in scoring), he could add the offensive punch needed to give Hamilton a tough series. Still, the depth for Hamilton should be enough to advance.

Huron-Perth Lakers (14-14-5) vs Windsor Jr. Spitfires (14-14-5)

Huron-Perth has a well balanced team with some elite scoring and good pucking moving defenseman. Pretty consistent season, finishing at exactly .500. Plays more of a controlled game and is very effective with puck possession.

Players to Watch

Carter Coombs – One of the elite scorers in this league, has an excellent shot and vision. Elite level skater.
Luke Fritz – Gritty forward who takes a ton of abuse on the ice. Opens up space for all of his teammates.
Danny Scott – Very solid two – way defenseman. Can make first passes out of the zone and quarterback the powerplay.

Windsor is big and physical team who loves the forecheck and grind game. Scores by committee and has one of the better goaltenders back stopping them. Much like Huron – Perth, had a fairly consistent season, finishing exactly .500.

Players to Watch

Gavin Grudner – Lanky forward who plays a big game. One of the hardest workers on the ice and always finds himself in scoring situations.
Owen Findlay – Offensive minded defenseman who loves to rush the puck. Good jam to his game.
Adrian McBride – Big goalie who can drop down quickly and possess a good quick glove.

This is the hardest series to predict. The only noticeable statistical difference is that Windsor gave up more goals this season than Huron – Perth. If Windsor plays the physical game, it could be trouble for the Lakers. If the Spits gets into penalty trouble, it will spell trouble for them. Will give the edge to Huron – Perth in a series that goes the distance.

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